By Sheila Berry
GET, MCEJO and All Rise wish to pay belated tribute to our much-loved Baba Makwela Canaka Ndlanzi, who died on 27 August 2021. Mr Ndlanzi was a loyal member of the Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organisation (MCEJO) who regularly attended our community meetings. We offer our condolences to the family and trust that his soul rests in peace. We miss his presence and his warm friendly smile that his white beard could not hide.
The Ndlanzi family was amongst the first to be relocated when coal mining came to Somkhele with wonderful promises of how everyone would benefit from the wealth and job opportunities that mining would bring to the area. In those early days, before the truth about the unbearable impacts of coal mining became a reality, it was not difficult to persuade residents to give up their land.
Mr Ndlanzi’s sad story is a common one in Somkhele and wherever mines relocate rural farmers. At a recent meeting earlier this year, where MCEJO members were asked to share their grievances in order to inform the pending mediation process with Tendele mine, Baba Ndlanzi was one of many who spoke. He told about his big farm at Dubelenkunzi and how it included an extensive area under sugarcane. Every year this piece of land would produce annual profits of R200 000 or more. When the mine was negotiating the family’s relocation, it promised to pay compensation of R200 000 a year for the loss of this field. However, when the Ndlanzis were relocated the mine paid only R100 000 for the first year and thereafter nothing was paid to them. For almost 20 years Mr Ndlanzi struggled to make a living after having been a wealthy farmer. He warned others not to be tricked by Tendele’s false promises or think that the money paid to them by the mine would make them wealthy. When it came to dealing with the mine, the mine would always win, and the people would always lose.
It is sad that Mr Ndlanzi did not live to witness the inevitable transition to economic, social, and environmental justice that MCEJO, All Rise and GET are committed to achieving. The High Court hearing on 6 and 7 October to review Tendele’s 222km2 mining right is an important step along this road. (Please see the update on the hearing)
This article was also published in saveourwilderness.org